London: A joint team of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) led by CBI Joint Director A Sai Manohar on Sunday left for the United Kingdom for court proceedings in connection with India's request seeking extradition of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya. The Westminster Magistrates' Court in London is expected to pronounce its judgment in the case on Monday.
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss is wanted in India on charges of alleged fraud and money laundering worth Rs 9,000 crore. Mallya has been on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year.
He has contested his extradition on the grounds that the case against him is "politically motivated" and the loans he has been accused of defrauding on were sought to keep his now-defunct airline afloat.
"I did not borrow a single rupee. The borrower was Kingfisher Airlines. Money was lost due to a genuine and sad business failure. Being held as guarantor is not fraud," he had posted on Twitter recently. He had also said that he had offered to repay 100 per cent of the principal amount. "Please take it," he had tweeted.
The trial, which opened at the Magistrates' Court on December 4 last year, has gone through a series of hearings beyond the initial seven days earmarked for it. While the Indian authorities have been trying to make a case of fraud and money laundering against Mallya, his defence team deposed a series of experts to prove that the alleged default of bank loans was the result of business failure rather than "dishonest" and "fraudulent" activity by the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines' owner.
The court was also told that a consortium of Indian banks, led by State Bank of India (SBI), had rejected an offer by the liquor baron in early 2016 to pay back nearly 80 per cent of the principle loan amount owed to them.
While the CPS argued that Mallya never intended to repay the loans he sought in the first place because his airline's demise was inevitable, the defence tried to establish that Kingfisher Airlines was suffering from consequences of a wider global financial crisis around 2009-2010 and that its failure was a result of factors beyond the company's control.
The judge had also noted that the banks seemed to have gone against their own guidelines while sanctioning some of the loans to the embattled businessman's company.
Mallya's defence team has also been questioning the prison conditions in India and presenting them as a reason to not extradite him. However, the judge has already indicated that she did not require any further information in reference to the prison conditions awaiting Mallya at Barrack 12 of Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail after seeking a video of the cell.
The judge's decision on whether to send Mallya's case to UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid can be appealed with the UK High Court's permission, with the person to be extradited entitled to make an application for permission to appeal to the High Court within 14 days of the date of the Chief Magistrate's ruling.
The Indian government would also have 14 days to file leave to appeal to the High Court, seeking permission to appeal against a decision not to extradite.